NCAA: LSU basketball coach Will Wade involved in providing impermissible payments to recruits

LSU men’s basketball coach Will Wade is under intense NCAA scrutiny once again.

As first reported by ESPN on Wednesday on Wednesday, the NCAA is accusing Wade of either arranging for, offering or providing impermissible benefits, including cash payments, to “at least 11” potential recruits or others around them. Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel confirmed the allegations being made against Wade later on Wednesday.

The NCAA is pursuing an infractions case against LSU. A notice of allegations has yet to be sent to the school, but The Advocate reported Tuesday that the NCAA wants the case assigned to the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP), which was created in the aftermath of the federal investigation into corruption in the sport.

Wade, who was infamously heard discussing making a “strong-ass offer” for a recruit on a federal wiretap, is at the center of the case.

From ESPN:

"Many of those factors are triggered by the actions of Will Wade, head men's basketball coach at Louisiana State University," NCAA vice president of enforcement Jonathan Duncan wrote in a July 15 letter. "Some of his underlying actions gave rise to this case and his tactics during the investigation have delayed resolution dramatically. He is employed in a leadership position at LSU, yet the institution has been unable to secure his full cooperation and is accountable for his behavior."

Wade’s “strong-ass offer” comment, which was first reported by Yahoo Sports in March 2019, was made in conversation with Christian Dawkins, who worked as a middleman for an NBA agent and eventually became a key component of the federal investigation into the world of college basketball recruiting.

In the HBO documentary, “The Scheme,” Dawkins discusses the call with Wade, which took place in 2017.

“I think the only way you can interpret someone in a head coaching position saying that they made a strong-ass offer, they ain’t talking about a scholarship offer, bro,” Dawkins says in the film. “One-hundred percent talking about money.”

Wade was initially suspended by LSU and refused to meet with school officials. He missed the team’s final regular season game, plus the Tigers’ games in the SEC and NCAA tournaments. However, he was reinstated April 14 and coached the 2019-20 season. Part of Wade’s reinstatement included a modified contract that “allows the university to fire him with cause if he’s found to have committed Level I or Level II violations,” per ESPN. Wade has denied all wrongdoing.

LSU coach Will Wade on the sidelines against Arkansas during an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
LSU coach Will Wade on the sidelines against Arkansas during an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

LSU football also under scrutiny

Whether the IARP oversees the LSU case will be decided by the Infractions Referral Committee, according to ESPN. LSU is OK with the IARP handling the basketball violations, per ESPN, but is hoping to avoid including the football program in the case.

The Tigers football program is facing potential violations stemming from the case involving booster John Paul Funes, who paid approximately $180,000 to the father of former Tigers lineman Vadal Alexander. Funes pleaded guilty in June 2019 to stealing more than $500,000 from a Louisiana hospital foundation where he worked.

LSU is also facing a Level III violation involving Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who was a star for the Tigers from 2011-13. Beckham was spotted giving cash to LSU players on the field after the Tigers beat Clemson in the College Football Playoff title game on Jan. 13.

One other football-related violation stems from alleged impermissible contact with a recruit by head coach Ed Orgeron. Per ESPN, LSU self-reported the violation, which attorneys characterized as “inadvertent” on Orgeron’s part.

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